SCPC President Ashley Landess calls for public disclosure in secret ‘incentives game’

Wednesday, April 20, 2011 – Today South Carolina Policy Council President Ashley Landess was joined by taxpayer advocates and grassroots leaders from across the state to present SCPC’s research on taxpayer-funded “incentives” to private companies. The Policy Council’s research proves that incentives have failed as an economic policy and that lawmakers are “investing” millions of public dollars while providing taxpayers with no meaningful information about the investments.

Among the Policy Council’s findings:

  • From 1995 to 2008, South Carolina spent roughly $2 billion on economic incentives. In 2009 alone, lawmakers pledged at least half a billion dollars to one company.
  • Meanwhile South Carolina’s unemployment rate has climbed, while the state’s per capita income has dropped to one of the lowest levels in the country.
  • Despite enormous sums of public money involved in incentives deals, almost nothing about these deals is publicly disclosed. Deals are negotiated in secret; incentives legislation passes with little or no debate; and taxpayers are told virtually nothing about how much money was spent and what kind of return on investment they can expect.
  • There is no effective process in place to track companies’ performance in meeting jobs and investment targets. Nor is there any real way to hold companies accountable when those targets aren’t met.

“To put it plainly, the ‘incentives game’ is more about politicians’ career advancement than about creating jobs and prosperity in South Carolina,” Policy Council President Ashley Landess said. “Cutting secret deals for well-connected companies doesn’t foster economic growth. If it did, we’d be one of the most economically vibrant states in the nation rather than one of the poorest. Our solution is simple. Instead of trying to compete with our wealthier neighbors in a game we can’t win, let’s lower taxes on everyone, eliminate costly regulations, and stop mindlessly spending millions on the state’s web of ‘economic development’ bureaucracies.”

In the accompanying fact sheets, SCPC outlines the failure of state-driven economic development, and suggests free market alternatives as well as broad policy proposals for making secret “incentives” deals public.

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